YOUTH unemployment rates in Hartlepool have dropped to below 10 per cent for the first time in six years.
Latest figures show that 9.7 per cent of 18-24-year-olds, a total of 800 young people, were out of work in May this year, compared to 10.6 per cent or 880 young people the previous month.
The last time that the level of youth unemployment was below 10 per cent was in November 2007 when the rate was 9.8 per cent.
The latest reduction means that the rate has now plummeted by 7.3 per cent in less than two years – from 17 per cent in September 2012.
Bosses at Hartlepool Borough Council have welcomed the news, and pledged to do all they can to help the figure drop even further.
Much of the success has been put down to the launch of the Hartlepool Youth Investment Project (HYIP), which started in 2012.
The pioneering scheme brought together all of Hartlepool Council’s youth employment initiatives and those of partners, including schools, colleges, Jobcentre Plus, the National Apprenticeship Service, work-based learning providers, the voluntary sector and key employers such as Camerons and C&A Pumps and Engineering.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the Leader of Hartlepool Council, said: “It is a tremendous achievement that youth unemployment is falling at such a fast rate given the economic challenges of the last few years.
“The HYIP has played a crucial role in improving the skills and employability of hundreds of young people and I would like to congratulate everyone involved for playing their part in what is an outstanding success story.
“However, it is important to remember that 800 young people remain unemployed in the town.
“Hartlepool Council is not complacent, and recognises that more work still needs to be done. We are committed to bringing down youth unemployment even further by building on the close and effective links that we have forged with our partners.”
Councillor Robbie Payne, Chair of Hartlepool Council’s Regeneration Services Committee, added: “This is great news and adds to the optimism that Hartlepool as a town is on the up.
“The recently-launched Hartlepool Vision aims to spark the town’s wider regeneration and lay the foundations for increased economic growth and jobs over the next 15 years, and it is important that our young people have the skills needed to take advantage of opportunities that will surely arise.
“That is why it is important to recognise that further work is required to bring down youth unemployment still further.”
The Hartlepool Vision is a blueprint for revitalising the centre of the town and eight key sites have been identified for regeneration and development – the town centre, Jacksons Landing/Trincomalee Wharf and the Marina, Church Street, Seaton Carew, the Headland, Wynyard, the Port and Queens Meadow.